Washington, DC - Jan. 9, 2007 - As part of our ongoing discussion with the U.S. Dept. of Justice officials, ISNA President Dr. Ingrid Mattson and other key Muslim and Arab American leaders met with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. They discussed the confiscation of Zakat monies and its consequence on Muslim efforts to provide aid to the poor and the indigent. They also asked the federal government to recognize the significance of alms giving in Islam, and to accordingly put in place policies that would remove the fear associated with alms giving post 9/11. Other issues discussed included racial profiling, the suspension of Habeas Corpus, and the lack of oversight of watch lists. ISNA president Dr. Ingrid Matson asked the Attorney General to ensure that Muslims and Arab Americans are able to discharge their religious obligations without fear of legal retribution. She went on to say: “Acknowledging the American Muslim efforts to safeguard American Muslim charities by creating the National Council of American Muslim Non-Profits as a meaningful way of strengthening the cooperation between the administration and the American Muslim charities is an important step the administration needs to take.”
The groups also urged the Attorney General to support the termination of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), or “special registration”. While presented to the public as a counter-terrorism measure, this program that began as an initiative of the Justice Department, has had the unfortunate consequence of compromising Muslim civil liberties; this in turn has worsened the relationship between law enforcement and Arab and Muslim immigrant communities and tarnished the U.S. image abroad.
The meeting concluded with an appeal to the Attorney General to publicly acknowledge the many contributions Muslim and Arab Americans have made to national security. It also asked that round table discussions be held for the benefit of Department of Justice employees in which they would learn more about Islam, Muslim and Arab Americans, and the Muslim World.